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At this program for adults with learning disabilities, 'secret sauce' is being together

Judith Prieve, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

BRENTWOOD, California — Hard at work on a recent Friday morning, Manuel Rodriguez meticulously wiped down the 12-foot-long, steel-framed wooden tables before mopping the floors at the Brentwood Craft Beer and Cider taproom.

After checking to see that the silverware and napkins were stocked, and setting up the patio furniture, a shift leader took the 28-year-old aside to show him how to operate the cash register and take orders. When there’s time, he might show him how to make pizzas as well.

It’s Rodriguez’s first job, but he doesn’t work for the downtown pub. Rather, he is a client of Working Wonders, an innovative local nonprofit that offers paid work experience, helps with life skills and more for young adults with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s fun,” Rodriguez said, noting he uses the money to buy games or movies. “It’s a little extra spending cash.”

On other days, the avid worker can be found taking lunch orders from teachers and administrators and delivering food for Dino’s Sandwich Shop to school offices, or doing prep work at Zephyr’s Bar & Grill or Brentwood Fine Meats, or cleaning the sidewalks along with other Working Wonders clients.

With only limited hours at minimum-wage pay, the money isn’t much, but it gives Rodriguez and other clients much more than just a paycheck. It’s a way for him to get out and socialize with others, and develop relationships and other life skills.

 

“We want to celebrate our clients. We want the world to know how great they are,” Matt Schwab, the nonprofit’s president, said. “And we want them to see their potential when they open doors for them to come in and work. They’re very dedicated, they pay attention to detail and they take a lot of pride in their work.”

Just ask Brentwood Craft’s shift lead Zack Revel, who says his best day at work is Friday when Working Wonders comes in to help with setup before the restaurant opens.

“Service is kind of my gig,” the easygoing pub worker said. “I like it a lot. And I think that’s like a good way to give back to the community.”

Schwab says “it’s not just about mop bucket.” Revel “shows them things like how to make pizza, how to use the cash register and take orders.”

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